Developer: Irrational Games
Publisher 2K Games
Xbox 360 Version Played. Also Available on PS3/PC.
As I crawled through a creaking vent, I looked out onto Rapture from an entirely new perspective. It was then I knew that this final segment of the Bioshock story was going to be something unique. And although it largely failed to deliver on Gameplay, it made a fitting end to the incredible storytelling and setting the games are famous for.
Firstly, the game is absolutely huge. It comes in two segments, as it breaks Microsoft’s size limits on downloadable content. If you were left feeling a little short-changed by Episode 1, don’t worry. It’s one of the biggest pieces of DLC I’ve ever played through, on the same level as the Fallout expansions. You play as Elizabeth, trying to find Sally, the missing Little Sister from the first episode. Playing as Elizabeth opens up a whole new way to go through Rapture, and often not successfully.
The main, single problem I encountered throughout the entire game was balance. As I first started playing as Elizabeth, I felt severely underpowered. My Shotgun could hold 4 rounds. A full pistol clip wouldn’t down an enemy. The game made it abundantly clear I would have to look at Rapture in a different light. Although initially frustrating, I enjoyed the challenge and being forced into a new style of Bioshock play. The problems came as the game progressed.
About halfway through my play-through, I got my hands on a Plasmid upgrade that allowed me to remain invisible for no EVE cost, if I stood still, I also found the Radar Range weapon shortly after. With these two powerful additions, I coasted through pretty much the rest of the game. I’d go into cloak when the enemy spotted me, wait for them to come right up to me (the invisibility doesn’t stop if the enemy touches you), and attack them as soon as they turned round. If this ridiculous plan didn’t work, I simply used the Radar Range, and dispatched them quickly. At that point, the once-powerful splicers became little more than an annoyance. The enemies did grow in power towards the end, but I could still use my cloak power for instant kills. Although an exploit in the game, it still felt that all the mechanics weren’t settling in as they should for the new style of play.
To me, it feels that Irrational didn’t know what they wanted from the gameplay of Episode 2. They clearly wanted to build a stealth game, but by adding familiar weapons and overpowered plasmids to give us the tested Bioshock touchstones, they’ve ended up confusing the message. I spent the majority of the time actually wishing I didn’t have to fight or sneak at all, as the levels are so detailed and rich with Rapture history, I was just enjoying being back there again. I genuinely would have loved to play the entire game just exploring and looking, the level design was that brilliant.
Playing as Elizabeth was also a bit of damp note. It felt as if Levine initially made a throwaway remark of playing as her to attract gamers, which has led to the studio having to make a game missing one of it’s greatest strengths. With Elizabeth out of shot and in your control, she seems a much lesser presence. Booker was a blank canvas, who allowed us to watch Elizabeth mature and grow. Her infectious curiosity and unique outlook offered great gameplay moments, adding another perspective and pushing plot-lines. Here they can’t do that as much, and the game definitely suffers as a result.
The thing is, these flaws aren’t what Bioshock is about. By this point, you’re not playing it for the gameplay, you’re playing it for the story. It doesn’t get a free pass because of this, but the story is fan service and them some.
Burial at Sea Episode 2 does an amazing job of taking care of all loose ends, and presenting you with a unified, structured ending that makes sense of a world in which Rapture and Columbia exist. To do this they’ve had to indulge in some pretty tenuous story links, but on the whole I was left feeling very satisfied. I could see little aspects of plot coming from time-to-time, but mostly I still enjoyed the ‘wow’ factor I’ve come to expect from these games. Especially the final act.
Ultimately, Burial at Sea: Episode 2 is the perfect send-off for Bioshock. It’s confusing, earnest, frustrating, brilliant and mesmerising, all at the same time. Just like Rapture and Columbia, the franchise is a dystopia. It strives for perfection, and although sometimes the outcome can go wrong, the sheer audacity and scope of what has been built can’t help but leave you in awe.